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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 12, March 19, 2006, Article 29

PHILADELPHIA STEAM COINING PRESSES IN BOLIVIA

This week reporter Mark Waite of the Pahrump Valley Times
(Nevada) wrote about a trip to Bolivia which included an
interesting numismatic side tour:

"I took the tour of the Casa de la Moneda, paying the 20
Bolivianos, less than $3, for the obligatory two-hour tour.
I expected a boring tour of a coin collection but found a
fascinating glimpse into Bolivian history. The mine was opened
in 1572, less than 30 years after Indian Diego Huallpa discovered
the rich silver ore on the Cerro Rico towering over Potosi. In
the late 1600s Potosi was the largest city in South America with
200,000 inhabitants and 86 churches, about double the population
today. Potosi was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Our tour guide led us into a large, cellar-like room with religious
paintings, explaining an anonymous, indigenous artist painted them,
which was a way of converting local Indians to the Christian faith.
She focused on a painting of the Virgin of the Mountain, the detail
showed Indian miners working and Spaniards relaxing nearby.

By 1773 machines were imported for flattening silver ingots to one
millimeter thick by huge grinders turned by mules on the floor below.
The early coins were 95 percent silver, she said, it didn't matter
if they weren't perfectly round.

A ship inside a glass represented the Atocha, the ship that sank off
the coast of Florida with a $400 million cargo in 1622, of which half
was silver from Potosi. There were other exhibits to occupy our two
hours: armaments from Bolivia's three wars against its neighbors in
the 19th and early 20th century; a display of 300 minerals;
steam-powered machines imported from Philadelphia to stamp coins
from 1869-1909 and a trick treasure chest to confound pirates.

Tourists were allowed to stamp their own coin, but a Taiwanese
coin collector turned down the offer when they didn't have any
silver left in the souvenir shop. Ironically, while Bolivia minted
Spain's coins for 300 years, the guide explained Bolivia's coins
are now minted in Spain."

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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